After two weeks on the road, I'm finally back home, tired but at the same time energized by the events of last weekend.
The protest in Washington DC was one of the high points of my entire activist life. I have never been in a group of over 100,000 people (don't let the news media lie to you – the parade route blocks were literally packed with protesters) who had that much energy and drive and desire before. I managed to miss all of the big demonstrations of the 60s and early 70s, which is one reason I was goddamned if I was going to miss this one.
An old friend of mine from high school who is now living in West Virginia drove overnight to come to the protest and incredibly he managed to find me in this huge crowd.
The whole event was as well organized as it could be, but naturally when you get that many different organizations and "affinity groups" together, it's a lot like herding cats. Things got off to a very slow start, with entirely too much standing around and waiting. The start of the parade was at the corner of Constitution and 15th, and the local cops had put up barricades – snow fences, really – to funnel the crowd into 15th, and that's what took the most time, I think.
I was originally with the Veterans for Peace contingent, but when we were kept standing and waiting for so long, five of us took off on our own, threading our way through the crowd until we were able to slip into the parade.
Shouts of Impeach Bush, War Criminal, Bring the Troops Home, etc., echoed off the stately facades of those grand monumental government buildings along the way, and the air was filled with cadence chants like these:
·Not our sons, not our fathers. If you want war, send your daughters!
·We're veterans against the war, we know what we're marchin' for. Bring our troops back to our soil, we say no more blood for oil.
·Dubya's lies should make him choke, he must still be snortin' coke. Saddam's secret poison gas must be something Rumsfield passed.
People carried signs that said Stop the War, Out Now, and Worst President Ever (thanks to Bartcop.com). Make Wine Not War (Democrats of Napa Valley). Guilty of War Crimes (impeachbush.org).
Homemade signs included Real Support is Not Asking Our Troops to Die for a Lie. College Not Combat. Our Troops Are Dying in Another Quagmire. Been There. A hand-lettered t-shirt said An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind.
Counter protests? Pathetic. One poor deluded fucker – who I must say did have a lot of balls – was standing by himself at the start of the march with a big sign over his head that said "Al Qaida Thanks You for Your Support". His face said that he had a huge chip on his shoulder, but the few people that engaged him in conversation remained calm and nothing happened.
At the FBI Building (fittingly) we met a group of about 80 or so counter-demonstrators who were cordoned off behind portable fences and a line of DC's finest. They were shouting incoherently, drowned out by the singing and shouting of the protestors. The cops all had amused expressions on their faces – the ones who didn't look bored out of their skulls. This must be an everyday thing for them.
The last marchers came straggling in to the Camp Casey site, between the Washington Monument and The Ellipse behind the White House about six o'clock. There was a concert later but I was too tired from all the standing, marching and shouting, and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I fell in with a couple of guys from my hotel – one of whom had been carrying all day a large sign with a laughing strawberry on it that said "Just another fruit for peace" – and after we went to dinner I collapsed in my hotel room.
The next day was a rest day, more or less. It was also the day that the counter-demonstrators were supposed to meet en mass and march around their own section of the mall. Sadly for them, despite the fact that it had been flogged to death on rightwing radio for the last couple of months, all they could manage to get together was a paltry 400 or so.
I went to the orientation/training session for those who intended to get arrested Monday afternoon, held in a tent just below the towering Washington Monument. I was ready to sit in with the 400 or so other people and get my name on the arrest records of our nation's capital until I found out that chances were, with that many people, I would probably not get out of jail until the next morning. I had a plane to catch in Philadelphia (long story, not now) at 8:30 the next morning (i.e. yesterday), so much to my disappointment I was not able to get arrested. This time.
During the course of this orientation session, three Marine One-type helicopters came overhead and settled in on the White House lawn behind us. We didn't know if Bush was aboard, but just to be sure that we were on the side of right and justice, three hundred hands shot into the air with the "Bush Finger" extended.
Behind us the two plainclothes cops on bicycles who had been trying unsuccessfully to blend in were not amused.
On Monday I marched to the White House with the people who were intending to get arrested, Cindy Sheehan included, with two streams of protesters going up each side of the White House grounds and coming together in Lafayette Park. Snipers on the White House roof kept their wary eyes on us.
Cindy spoke to the crowd along with religious leaders from all of the major religions.
After more chanting and shouting, Cindy and the religious leaders approached the gate and asked to speak to the president. What a surprise to all of us that he wouldn't meet with them.
At that point the volunteers walked down the sidewalk in front of the White House, pinned the names of the dead to the fence and sat down.
From then on it was all kind of pro forma. The buses and paddy wagons drove up between the protesters and the crowd, people were put into plastic handcuffs with their hands behind their backs and loaded into the buses or wagons. I waited until Cindy was cuffed and the crowd cheered her bravery, and then it was time for me to go.
However, the next time I will know in advance what the drill is and I will proudly and gladly get arrested in front of the White House along with Cindy Sheehan, along with the religious leaders who stand in opposition to this immoral war, along with my fellow members of Veterans for Peace.
End the war. Now.
Update: See many more protest photos here